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The BBC's Christine Stewart
"Relatives of the victims are asking why airlines didn't take action sooner"
 real 56k

Dr. John Cruickshank, a key witness
"Had these precauations been taken 13 years ago... some of these people would still be alive today"
 real 28k

Dr Farrol Kahn of the Institute of Aviation Health
"I would have thought that doctors would have... informed the public"
 real 56k

Sunday, 10 June, 2001, 07:30 GMT 08:30 UK
Airlines 'knew blood clot risk'
Airline seats
Airlines have been criticised for not explaining the risks
Airlines have known about the possible links between long-haul flights and deep vein thrombosis (DVT) for 10 years, a BBC investigation has found.

BBC One's Panorama programme also says that dozens of airlines turned down or ignored requests from scientists to study blood clots among passengers.

One recent study has suggested that as many as one in 10 long-haul passengers could be at risk from DVT, commonly called "economy class syndrome".

DVT is a condition in which a small, potentially fatal blood clot forms, often in the deep veins of the legs.

Emma Christofferson, who died from DVT
Emma Christofferson: Died after 20-hour flight
It becomes potentially deadly when a part of the clot breaks off and blocks a blood vessel in the lungs.

Scientists believe there is a risk connected to flying because of the long hours a passenger remains immobile.

The problem came to public notice following high-profile cases like that of 28-year-old Emma Christofferson, from south Wales, who died after a 20-hour flight from Australia.

She suffered a massive blood clot after sleeping for most of the journey, and collapsed and died shortly after arriving at Heathrow Airport last October.

Health advice

Pressure was put on the airlines to warn passengers on the risks of sitting still for too long and to provide health and safety advice.

But Panorama says that airlines knew about the possible links 10 years ago.

There are no accurate figures telling us how many people die from flight-related blood clots

John Scurr
Vascular surgeon
While they did offer advice to passengers, they did not specifically refer to DVT or potentially fatal blood clots.

When asked why, one airline said it did not want to confuse or alarm passengers.

Vascular surgeon John Scurr told the BBC that flight-related DVT could be responsible for as many as 1,000 deaths every year.

"There are no accurate figures telling us how many people die from flight-related blood clots," he said.

"But I would estimate that it is certainly in excess of a few hundred and possibly up to as many as 1,000 people a year.

"That is based on our experience from hospitals in close proximity to airports."

Panorama: Economy Class Syndrome can be seen on BBC One at 2215BST on Sunday.

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See also:

28 Mar 01 | UK Politics
Airlines rapped over blood clot deaths
13 Mar 01 | Health
Airlines admit blood clot risk
07 Feb 01 | Health
Stroke test 'could save lives'
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